Healthy Summer Living
I'm looking out my office window at a new osprey nest, complete with new parents, and I start thinking of summer and my own family's health.
CBF's Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost. Photo by Nikki Davis.
Summer is a time for swimming and healthy salads. OK, and also barbeques—maybe burgers and corn on the cob. But summer shouldn't mean swimming advisories about unhealthy water. Nor should we have to eat lettuce or ground beef shipped from another continent.
CBF is trying to make sure your family can enjoy clean water and healthy food options. And you can help, too.
This summer CBF is expanding a program to test the water where people swim to see if it's safe. Working with partners, we will test water samples from swimming holes and other recreational areas in various Maryland counties, then report that data on a website, and to local media outlets. We will test for harmful bacteria after rainstorms when risks are highest for such dirty water.
Unfortunately, we often are our own worst enemies when it comes to healthy streams. Pet waste not picked up can be washed into creeks. So can farm animal waste. Rainstorms also often cause leaks in sewer lines in places such as Baltimore. Septic systems not properly maintained also can pollute. All this results in fecal matter in the water where people often swim, fish, or boat.
As a general rule, Maryland recommends we avoid contact with all natural water (meaning the Bay, rivers, creeks, and streams) for a full 48 hours after a significant rain storm. That's because of polluted runoff and the waste it carries into our water.
County health departments are required by law to test public beaches for bacteria, but these tests are often infrequent and usually not after rainstorms when the chances of unhealthy water are the highest. So CBF volunteers will go out after the rain to test swimming holes and other places where people are known to recreate but government testing is infrequent or non-existent.
We can't test everywhere. We just want to give the public—and elected officials—a sense of the scope of the problem of polluted runoff and other types of water pollution. Stay tuned.
Speaking of healthy living, our Clagett Farm is a great place to get healthy in the summer. The farm grows about 50,000 pounds of produce a year. You can sign up for our CSA program to have your pick of healthy farm food without the fuss of harvesting. Or if you feel like it, come volunteer to help harvest and get a share of freshly picked veggies for your payment. If you like ground beef, sign up for our biannual grass-fed beef sales.
CBF also is a lead partner in The Grazers Network, which helps nearly 200 farmers raise livestock on pasture—healthier both for the animals and for clean water. Many of these farms have their own CSA programs as well. Check out the Grazers Directory, which includes nearly 100 farms in Maryland.
Or patronize area farmers markets. Ask the vendors how they grow their food. Supporting sustainable farms is one of the best ways to keep agriculture in business and to clean up rural streams that feed the Bay. Whatever way you can help, stay healthy this summer and help the Bay's health in the process.
Maryland Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation